Welcome back after the short Christmas break! I hope you had a lovely time with your nearest and dearest!
I’m sure most of us still have some scrumptious leftovers from Christmas feasts. But at the same time, we’re now fast approaching the season of making New Year’s Resolutions. I probably won’t be wrong if I say that at least half of those who make resolutions will include – in one way of another – being physically active, improving their fitness level, hitting the gym, or just generally trying to spend less time on the sofa, in front of the TV.
Last year, I was among those who decided to work out in the New Year. I decided to do it every day and, to my surprise, I actually managed to stick to that plan for about 10 months. Let’s have a quick look at how it went! I will also include a list of most useful fitness accessories which helped me stick to the plan.
The reason why I decided to work out every day in 2018 was that in 2017 I had been hit by a series of serious problems with my back. I pretty much spent 3 months in bed, having to take strong painkillers whenever I needed to leave the house. And the fact that doctors were helpless, saying that ‘well, back pain is a common problem which often can’t be diagnosed, it will go away after a few weeks’ – certainly didn’t help. Luckily, the pain did go away eventually. I invested in a better bed and mattress and a fancy office chair, I changed some of my habits and decided to work out – to make sure I was physically healthy. Cause, let’s be honest, being a programmer at work and a gamer after hours, I’d spend way too much time sat in front of a computer.
I never used to make New Year’s Resolutions, but this time, I did. On the 1st of January I did a quick little workout at home. Repeated it again, and again… and until the end of March I had only skipped one day, I believe. I did things like sit-ups, crunches, jumping jacks etc at home, for about 30-40 minutes every day. Then, spring came and I moved to what had used to be my go-to sport: rollerblading. I did that in place of my at-home workouts whenever I could (in other words, whenever the weather was good enough). As you can see in the photos below, between the end of March and the end of October, I did a total of 1662 kilometres – mainly rollerblading, with a few runs and 2 or 3 hiking trips. I took a break for my 2-week summer holidays, but beside that, I think it’s fair to say I managed to exercise on 90% of days until the end of October.
Also, in September, I started using a smart, fitness-tracking band. Apparently, between the 12th of September and the 23rd of December I managed to do 980 392 steps – with a chain of 100 days with at least 10 000 steps in each.
Around August, I added strength training to my regular fitness routine, mainly on days when I couldn’t go roller skating. Strength training is actually one of the most underestimated, undervalued gems of fitness routines. Loads of people focus on cardio exercises, completely ignoring all types of workouts focused on building strength rather than burning a lot of calories in a short period of time. I will talk more about the benefits of strength training in the future. For now, I’ll just say that I did some exercises including good old dumbbells every few days between the end of August and mid-November.
I have to admit, my beautiful, regular fitness routine ended around the end of October – when we switched to winter time and I wasn’t able to do any kind of outdoor exercise after work. I continued to work out at home, but I wasn’t as regular as I used to be. Also, I focused on Christmas preparations – gift shopping, cookie baking and decorating etc etc. I decided to let myself take a break, to fully enjoy Christmas. I plan to return to working out on a regular basis on the 1st of January. However, it certainly won’t be an every day kind of routine. Although I managed to keep it up for a long, long time – let’s be honest, it’s not sustainable in the long term. It cost me a lot of time – to the point where my days would only include work, working out, meal prepping and sleep. I think switching to a 3-4 times a week schedule should still work out well, while leaving me some spare time.
I’m not a fitness pro. But I believe what I went through this year in terms of working out gives me the right to make a list of fitness accessories which are actually helpful – not when you’re a professional athlete, but when you’re a regular person trying to up their fitness level. Here are 5 things I found most life-changing in my fitness journey this year:
1. Water bottle
I think this doesn’t need an explanation. Staying hydrated is extremely important – even more so when you work out. Always have some water at hand when you exercise and drink it to refill water levels in your body!
2. Yoga Mat
If you plan to start by working out at home, this is an essential item to have. Sit-ups done on a cold, hard surface feel horrible on your spine. Doing them on a fitness mat is sooo much more comfortable! Mats are also great for jumping jacks, high knees and all other exercises which involve jumping – you may not realize how slippery your floor is until that one time when you fall over, seriously injure yourself and decide to never return to working out again.
As you can tell from one of the screenshots I included above – I used my smart band a lot. In fact, I wear it all the time, only taking it off when I shower. I’m so used to it now, I don’t even notice its presence on my wrist. However, this little device is extremely motivating. I saw that there was an in-app medal for doing 10 000 steps on 100 consecutive days… and I decided I needed to get it. And I did! And I’m sure those long walks were great for my overall fitness.
Smart bands can also bring some other interesting reports – like, for example, the length and quality of our sleep or our heart rate throughout the day. And honestly, the simplest, basic models are really quite cheap! I use a model similar to this, by Huawei – it’s affordable and does everything a fitness amateur might need.
This one’s great for outdoor workouts. Running or rollerblading with a shoulder bag or a backpack isn’t the most comfortable. Having your phone attached to your arm is extremely convenient. You could, of course, leave the phone at home – but fitness-tracking apps are generally great to use while in a fitness routine – they can both show you interesting details about your progress and keep you motivated to keep going. So, investing in an armband phone case is a good choice!
This is one of the less popular accessories, but it can be a real dark horse of the whole fitness thing. Absolutely amazing for working out at home. These bands are used for simple strength training. Made out of rubber of different thickness, they pose various levels of resistance when you stretch them – and there are countless ways to exercise with them! You can pull them with your hands, arms, shoulders, feet or legs – in all possible combinations. And by doing that, you exercise various muscle groups. The bands themselves are rather cheap and storing them requires close to no space at all (just like exercises that use them). If hitting the gym or working out outdoors isn’t entirely up your street and you prefer to exercise in the comfort of your own house – consider adding some resistance bands to your fitness equipment.
Do you have any other items on your list of fitness essentials? Let me know what you’d add to the list above!